The latest attempt by PA Republicans to pass an education savings account/voucher bill (Senate Bill 2) got a major boost in October 2017 when an anti-voucher senator on the Senate Education Committee left the committee and was replaced by an SB 2 sponsor. Sen. Dan Laughlin, R-Erie, who voted NO on the ESA/DeVos voucher bill in an unrecorded, tie committee vote, resigned as a member of the Senate Education Committee and is being replaced by Sen. Rich Alloway, R-Franklin, an SB 2 sponsor.
"Talk about a rigged system," said AFTPA President Ted Kirsch, who has led successful fights against vouchers and similar privatization gimmicks before. "This shows how far the corporate education reformers and big GOP campaign donors will go to make sure that U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos' privatization agenda advances in Pennsylvania."
"After 20 years of vouchers and similar schemes, the research is clear. Vouchers, ESAs and other so-called "school choice" programs do not give parents better choices, do not raise student achievement and divert money from the neediest children in the poorest schools," Kirsch said.
"Taxpayer and parents want high-quality, well-funded neighborhood public schools for their children," he added. "They certainly don't want their hard-earned tax dollars funneled to private and religious schools that have no educational accountability to taxpayers, have no financial transparency and can discriminate against children based on their religion, gender, sexual identity or preference, special educational needs, language and family income. We will fight - as we have in the past - to stop SB 2 and any scheme that disinvests in free public schools open to all children."
The Senate is adjourned until Jan. 2, 2018. AFTPA will monitor the bill and urge AFTPA members whose senators sit on the Education Committee to ask them to vote no when the bill comes up for a vote.
Sen. Alloway currently serves on the Senate Republican leadership team as Senate Republican Caucus Secretary, and also holds a number of committee assignments.
As part of the change, Sen. Alloway resigned as a member of the Senate Community, Economic, and Recreational Development Committee and is being replaced there by Sen. Laughlin.
In comments made to The PLS Reporter, Sen. Laughlin maintained that his requested transfer off of the Senate Education Committee had nothing to do with his opposition to Senate Bill 2—a controversial bill creating voucher-like education savings accounts and rather said his requested change is as a result of his desire to work more on economic development issues.
“One of the biggest issues in my district was the Erie School District funding, they were tanking and going bankrupt and I was able to get a really nice amount of funding set aside for them [in this year’s budget package] on an annual basis and that was my biggest reason for wanting to be on the Education Committee,” he said on Monday.
“I’ve solved that problem and my next thing on my to-do list is economic development, so I asked if it would be possible to make that shift and leadership said ‘sure,’ at least that’s what I’ve heard.”
Sen. Laughlin previously opposed the ESA legislation, which failed to clear the Senate Education Committee earlier this year due to a late-filed proxy that caused the tied vote to be canceled. He said earlier this week that should he remain on the committee or should the issue come up on the Senate Floor, he would remain opposed to advancing the legislation.
Members of the Senate Education Committee are:
• Sen Richard Alloway (717) 787-84651 Twitter: @SenatorAlloway
• Sen Ryan Aument 717-787-4420 Twitter: @ElectAument
• Sen Jim Brewster 717-787-5580 Twitter: @SenatorBrewster
• Sen Pat Browne 717-787-1349 Twitter: n/a
• Sen Andy Dinniman 717-787-5709 Twitter: @Senator Dinniman
• Sen John DiSanto 717-787-6801 Twitter: @SenatorDiSanto
• Sen John Eichelberger 717-787-5490 Twitter: n/a
• Sen Mike Folmer 717-787-5708 Twitter: @SenatorFolmer
• Sen Daylin Leach 717-787-5544 Twitter: @daylinleach
• Sen Tommy Tomlinson 717-787-5072 @SenTomlinson
• Sen Tony Williams 717-787-5970 Twitter @SenTonyWilliams
With reporting from the Pennsylvania Legislative Service